Sunday, December 21, 2008

Standards-based Learning

An old adage about learning goes, "when the student is ready, the master will appear." The focus on a child's "readiness" has been of interest me since my son was born six years ago and my daughter arrived three years later. Though I've been teaching for sixteen years, my rather traditional approach to education (no doubt influenced by Catholic schooling) never led me to consider anything other than the rigid guidelines of curriculum for each level. However, after my son was born and I started reading books about parenting and early childhood education, I began to wonder how I might feel if my child wasn't ready to read or write at first grade as standardized tests are now encouraging. Luckily for me, my children are already passing standard benchmarks for skills. However, I no longer fully accept the concept of a one-size-fits-all education system. I am more intrigued by Waldorf and Montessori models, (philosophies that, years ago, I would have flippantly referred to as "foo-foo" education).

Thus, I am intrigued by the decision of the Adams 50 school district in Colorado to make a move away from grades and approach schooling from a readiness and skill proficiency perspective for its struggling schools. There is a simple wisdom to allowing kids to proceed through proficiency of skills at their own pace. Of course, I have always worried about the kid who still isn't "ready" to read at the age of eighteen, and guaranteeing considerable levels of accountability is absolutely paramount in a reform-movement based on this idea. Yet, I recall a colleague from years ago who completed k-12 in the Waldorf model. He explained how he started reading and pres-school and his sister didn't read or write until the "third grade." Yet, he is a high school English teacher with a Master's degree, and his sister has a Ph.D. in Humanities. Thus, there is some validity to the argument behind "standards-based learning." I wish Adams 50 all the best, and we should be watching its progress with hope and scrutiny.

2 comments:

Mrs. C said...

Well, Emperor was in a "special needs" preschool and would have been in first grade now. He is working on the public school's fourth grade curriculum.

Jumps like that happen. I think about 140 years ago kids started school around 8 or 9.

But I hear you on the lack of accountability being a bit of a problem. That's only because they're using public funds, though. Otherwise, I'm a firm believer in "my kid, my business." Not that I have anything to hide, more that some of the standards can be a bit loopy sometimes. :]

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